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Online classes become the new normal, NCHE issues ODEL guidelines (Download Here)

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Featured Image (above): A teacher at Dream Africa Schools conducting an online class as learners (right) follow.

After President Museveni’s address in which he stated that schools are unlikely to open until a vaccine for Covid-19 is got, many schools and institutions have made efforts to start online classes using technologies like Zoom.

Since March this year, at least 15 million learners have been holed up at homes as one of the government’s measures to prevent the spread of the global pandemic that is COvid-19.

During this time, the government has endeavoured to provide revision materials to learners through newspapers and TV/radio programs but many who cannot access these materials have been left out, thus necessitating the government recent initiative to distribute TV and radio sets across the country.
This notwithstanding, the measures have been very passive and hard to regulate by both parents and government.

It is the reason that Gombe Educations Services (GES) has moved to fill the void by starting a universal online learning platform open to learners from all schools across the country and abroad starting July 1, 2020. Here, all learners get a chance to meet their colleagues (through video), ask questions in class and get real time answers from teachers.

A teacher at Gombe Junior School conducting online classes. Mr. Yeeko said parents can call 0708 800002/6 to enroll.

According to Mr Nkono Yeeko, the coordinator of this program at GES, the initiative is aimed at creating a sense of community during this Covid-9 crisis. Learners have spent over three months at home and academic rustiness is inevitable, said Mr. Nkono Yeeko.

“This is a national program that does not discriminate against anyone. We have outsourced teachers from some of the best schools on top of our own. Let’s join hands as a community of educators and prevent our children from lagging behind,” he added.

Recently, Kampala Parents School also announced online classes for pupils from pre-primary (Middle and Top classes of nursery section) to primary seven-candidate who will sit for the national Primary Leaving Examinations.

Kampala Parents School Principal Mrs Daphine Kato said in a May 22 circular that, the online learning will begin with the term one work which was not completed due to the abrupt ending of the term and closure of schools.

A teacher of Kampala Parents School Controlling an online class using technology

“After completion of first term material, we are to embark on term two syllabus. We should also not overlook the fact that the school has invested heavily on the equipment to enable the online lesson to go on smoothly for the benefit of the learners,” said Kato.

A parent just needs a laptop, a tablet, smartphone or desktop with webcam on top of constant data.

Dream Africa Schools is also running The ‘DAS Online School program’, parents can enroll their children through Tel: 0776888846

Government Okays Elearning for Higher Institutions of Learning

Speaking to the Nation on the Ministry of Education and Sports Preparedness and Response to COVID-19 Pandemic on Friday 3rd July at State House, the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet K. Museveni said it was not true that her ministry had prohibited e-learning.

“There has been a misconception in the media that the Ministry of Education and Sports prohibited e-learning. This is not true; we cannot be the ones banning what we are promoting. Several institutions including Uganda Christian University, Makerere University, and several International Schools in Basic and Secondary levels have been utilizing e-learning; even before the outbreak of COVID-19,” Mrs. Museveni said.

A student of Uganda Christian University enjoying the University’s Elearning Program which started before the lockdown

“What we are doing as a Sector is to put forward a comprehensive sector-wide agenda to guide the delivery of formal Education through e-learning mechanisms because it has implications on quality of education for the country and its citizens. Once the ICT and E-Learning Framework is complete, we shall communicate it to our stakeholders and the public at large because you all deserve to know.”

Mrs. Museveni also said that the Ministry has already put in place guidelines for the implementation of e-learning that the Executive Director of the National Council for High Education (NCHE) would communicate these guidelines.

“However, allow me to observe that one of the critical requirements in these guidelines for e-learning is that, no continuing learner should be left behind or excluded from learning when a Learning Institution starts implementing the e-learning approach as a COVID-19 response intervention,” she said.

Mrs. Museveni added that the Ministry was in advanced stages of developing home-schooling study materials for the entire Primary and Secondary Education levels.

“We are also going to provide printed learning materials for all subjects and all learners. In addition to that, all lessons in the printed materials form shall also be broadcast through the radio and TV stations. Therefore, I wish to call upon all families and villages/communities to support the government in ensuring that this second phase of continuity of learning becomes effective,” Mrs. Museveni said.

NCHE Guidelines for Adoption Of An Emergency Open, Distance and E-Learning (ODeL) System During The Covid-19 Lockdown

The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), a body mandated to regulate the provision and conduct of Higher Education in Uganda, has published guidelines for implementing an emergency ODeL system for enabling the Higher Education training institutions to offer teaching and learning during the current lockdown. The ODeL system of learning provision is globally recognized as a worthy mechanism for flexible learning. It has been observed that ODeL avails numerous benefits as a teaching and learning system, because it focuses on learners, and provides for continuous engagements between the instructor and learners as and when is desirable.

The NCHE takes cognizance of the readiness to reopen expressed by the majority of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and has developed guidelines for aiding HEIs to resume their teaching and learning activities remotely, since students and lecturers can be able to interact without necessarily coming into contact, during the lockdown.

The Emergency ODeL Guidelines 

The following Guidelines are provided by NCHE for enabling HEIs to commence remote teaching and learning activities during the current lockdown.

That every applicant shall avail to NCHE: –

  1. Evidence of the existence of COVID-9 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as issued by the Ministry of Health. This should clarify the arrangements on the ground in the institution so as to mitigate the safety concerns should a student, staff or NCHE official pay a visit.
  2.  A structure and details of the proposed ODeL model, including the equipment (e.g. flash discs, data provision) or the available logistical arrangements of how materials will be delivered to learners.
  3. A list of the accredited academic programmes to be rolled out on the ODeL system, since the guidelines will support the rolling out of only accredited academic programmes.
  4. A list of staff qualified and ready to support the rolling out of the academic programmes through the ODeL system.
  5. Details of the students to be engaged. This should include evidence of having traced them and a survey on the students’ readiness for the ODeL teaching and learning as well as the learning support technologies they have e.g. smart phones, laptops and internet access.
  6. An undertaking by students indicating their willingness or inability to participate in the proposed arrangement. In case of students being unable to access emergency ODeL teaching and learning, the institution will indicate its proposed mitigation measures of redress for time and learning lost.
  7. The strategy for covering the learning content missed during the lockdown.
  8. Evidence of approvals by the institutional respective organs i.e. Senate and Council.
  9. Principles and guidelines of how the ODeL system would run, including equity and quality assurance. This is critical because the ODeL guidelines will aim to ensure that there is unhindered access to education through open, distance and e-learning, as afforded by new media and other technologies (phones, radios, TVs) and through blended means. 
  10.  Evidence of the mechanism of access and usage by the students and staff. The applicant should provide clarity on how they would address the issues of students who are not able to acquire electronic gadgets, data and network coverage.
  11. Assurance of mainstreaming of disability and gender in all COVID-19 response recovery actions.
  12. A description of the pre-training of both the staff and learners to be offered prior to embarking on the ODeL system.
  13.  The assessment and evaluation mechanisms of learning, as a means of continuous assessment during the teaching and learning.
  14. Evidence of the following conditions if final examinations are to be administered on-line;
    1. Staff trained to deliver examinations on-line
    2. Security and cheating avoidance lockdown browser
    3. Face recognition software
    4. Any other relevant examination security features.

      In the absence of (1) –(4) above, final examinations should be done on campus when institutions re-open.
  15.  The learning support mechanism in case learners require so. 
  16.  A student communication mechanism during the proposed schedule of ODeL provision.
  17.  Evidence of the ODeL capability, including the recording and documentation mechanisms for post viewing.
  18. Demonstrate strategy of completion of the practicum, forprogrammes which require practical engagements such as medicine and engineering.
  19.  Evidence of the HEIs internal quality assurance measures, including the human resources to support the same.
  20. The attendant budget to support the new schedule of teaching and learning.
  21.  Demonstrated capacity to mitigate Cyber risks.
  22. Assurance that relevant laws and regulations such as Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019 will be complied with.
  23. An action plan indicating how teaching and learning as well as assessment of both practical and theoretical aspects of the programme will be implemented during the lockdown.

 Implementation

  1. Eligible HEIs may apply to NCHE for consideration to roll out an ODeL system during the current lockdown.
  2. Upon receipt of the application from the HEIs, NCHE will carry out the necessary quality assurance checks, including visitations where possible, or requiring an officer from the institution to demonstrate the institution’s technology capability to provide teaching and learning remotely.
  3. Permission granted to offer emergency ODeL will be valid for twelve (12) months or the duration of the crisis as will be determined by the relevant authorities.
  4. All institutions that would have been granted permission to offer emergency ODeL shall apply for renewal of the same at least two (2) months before the expiration of the initial period of twelve (12) months to allow for smooth continuity of operations should the pandemic be deemed likely to persist beyond twelve months.
  5. The NCHE shall continuously Monitor and Evaluate the new schedule of teaching and learning, either online or physically where possible.
  6. Records of the teaching and learning sessions completed shall be compiled for verification by NCHE through the ODeL system under this arrangement. They shall be availed to NCHE on a semester basis.
  7. Institutions may develop customized manuals or guidelines but will be required to submit them to NCHE.
  8. Institutions are encouraged to network with other institutions and exchange information and best practices.
While appearing on NBS Television this morning, the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University welcomed the newly published NCHE ODeL guidelines and said that the University is ready to embrace the New Normal and all categories of students have been catered for.

Conclusion 

There is overwhelming support of the idea of implementing the ODeL mode of delivery of higher education.  However, critical success factors should be upheld, hence the need for adoption of the emergency ODeL system.

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